I Spit On Your Grave Netflix | Amazon | Google Play | hitbliss | SEN | Vudu | YouTube DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Meir Zarchi
Starring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann
Cinemagic / The Jerry Gross Organization
Originally Released: November 22, 1978
Paving the way for numerous fucked-up films that, in fact, have some form of subtext, the disturbing I Spit On Your Grave (otherwise known as Day Of The Woman) was a massive influence to the horror genre. Though campy now with age, the violence and ruthlessness is no less intense, making the movie still incredibly fucked-up and a disturbing viewing experience.
Writer Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) goes into seclusion to a remote "cabin in the woods" where she plans to begin work on her first novelization. The locals in the area seem friendly by all appearances, and things appear to be off to a good start for her. But the situation degenerates, as a group of the local young men attack and rape her, several times, in demented scenes that simply cannot be unseen.
Believing her to be dead, the rapists go on with their daily lives, but Jenny survives and begins to put the pieces of her life back together. Once back on her feet, she becomes conscious that she will be unsafe if her attackers learn that she is alive, and begins to make plans to seek vengeance on those who brutalized her.
The performances in I Spit On Your Grave aren’t very good to be honest. Camille Keaton stands out dramatically and bravely though, portraying the trauma of a victim of rape. The belligerent gang rape scenes are the stuff of nightmares, forcing the depraved actions at the viewer, leaving a lasting and unforgettable impression.
Keaton’s performance is significant in this film, and makes the movie worth at least a look for horror fans, for it was a major influence on many flicks that followed.
The actors portraying the rapists are reasonable at inspiring the viewers to feel nothing but the darkest of hate for them; but it’s in the other scenes that they fall down. The acting is substandard, and inconsistent with the characterizations of the men. This makes them less forbidding antagonists, though I imagine a lot of this has to do with the fact the movie was made in 1978.
Which brings me to another point: I Spit On Your Grave is extremely dated. Within the first five minutes you learn that the cost of filling up on gas will only be $5.20 (WTF happened?), as one example. The 35 years since its release has not been kind to the quality of the film, and it has lost a lot of its original impact. Part of this has to do with the desensitization of culture over these past four decades, though it also has to do with the slower pacing of the plot.
That being said: the significance of I Spit On Your Grave was in its shock value during the time it was released. Rape and sexual crimes in the 1970’s did not get as much coverage and exposure as they do today (truthfully, I would suggest that there’s STILL a lot more to be done and to accomplish in this era – it’s shameful that rape victims are further victimized in this day and age), so the content was a massive shock to audiences of the time. The movie was banned in several countries, highly edited and censored in others, but as time has progressed, many have recognized its magnitude.
Addressing these sensitive, yet important, issues underscores the weight of the movie. The subtext is less embedded below the surface, and more shoved uncomfortably to the surface and in your face. There are some surreal symbolic moments for Keaton’s character here and there – the serene yet traumatized naked wandering through the woods being one, and later costuming being another – though these are eclipsed by the intentions of director Meir Zarchi (who actually made the film because of how horrified he was at rape victims were treated by police in NYC).
For the horror fans, there is plenty of gore in the later part of the movie. There is a scene in particular that will make you wince a little (if you’re male that is), and the blood effects surprisingly stand up to the test of time. The earlier part of the movie, with its brutal and disturbing violence, will be substantially disturbing and fucked-up to many viewers, and will test them incredibly… particularly because of Keaton’s impressive though haunting performance. Believe me, this is not a film for everyone.
Fans of Seventies horror films, if they have not already seen it, will find I Spit On Your Grave to be an incredibly intense viewing experience. However, many will find the film too disturbing to view, and it is an arduous film to watch – even for the most desensitized audience member. If you can handle challenging films and have not seen this one, I recommend giving it a shot… but if not, go for something else.